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Young minority men are often portrayed in popular media as victims of poverty and discrimination. A Dream Denied delves deeper, investigating the social and cultural implications of the “American dream” narrative for young minority men in the juvenile justice systems in Boston and Chicago. This book connects young male offenders’ cycles of desistance and recidivism with normative assumptions about success and failure in American society, exposing a tragic disconnect between structural reality and juvenile justice policy. This book challenges us to reconsider how American society relates to its most vulnerable members, how it responds to their personal failures, and how it promises them a better future.
Michaela Soyer is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Hunter College.
"Soyer situates her analysis of young men’s desistance efforts in a broader critique of the American myth of meritocracy. She skillfully weaves ethnographic data and social theory to show how the young men’s lives are shaped by their social circumstances, juvenile justice system involvement, and the cultural narratives that rationalize and enable their marginalization. A Dream Denied expands our understanding of the complicated process of desistance and how it is shaped by inequality."—Andrea Leverentz, Professor of Sociology, University of Massachusetts Boston and author of The Ex-Prisoner’s Dilemma: How Women Negotiate Competing Narratives of Reentry and Desistance
"Too often research on troubled African American and Latino youth takes the perspective that they are incorrigible, unapologetic for their actions, or unaware of alternative ways of living. In A Dream Denied, Michela Soyer dispels this narrow vision by exploring the complex views about opportunity and desire for inner-city teenagers in the juvenile justice system. Soyer puts complex portraits of youth squarely in the middle of the debate about whether punishment or corrections at the systems level is all that needs to be attended to in regard to troubled youth of color in America."—Alford A. Young, Jr, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Sociology and of Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan
"A Dream Denied provides a fascinating look into the experiences of young black men in Boston's and Chicago’s juvenile justice systems. This book as a whole offers something atypical: a highly theoretical, accessible, and captivating exploration of the lives of young men in two juvenile justice systems. By juxtaposing what the author calls 'automatic desistance' versus 'creative desistance,' she complicates our understanding of leaving a life of crime and how that looks for different people, in different places and at different times."—Jerry Flores, Assistant Professor of Social Work and Criminal Justice, University of Washington Tacoma